How Does Inbound Marketing Work?

Chris Dickins
Wednesday April 1, 2020

The definitive guide to inbound, how it works and why you should be doing it.

In today’s marketing landscape, outbound is outdated. It’s not enough to shout about your brand from the rooftops anymore, with methodologies employed to grab attention. But how does transforming from outbound to inbound marketing give sales professionals the edge?

Inbound vs Outbound: What’s The Difference?

Outbound marketing techniques such as TV, radio, print advertising and cold calling take up a lot of energy; according to Mashable, 86% of us skip through TV commercials and 44% of direct mail is never opened. A lot of outbound is wasted on talking at a mass gathering of people, many of which weren’t interested in the first place. 

Inbound channels your content marketing energy into something positive; rather than a linear sales funnel, a perpetual cycle of lead generation and nurture, that in turn creates great customer experiences. Inbound doesn’t compete to be the loudest. It’s more concerned with being relevant. Rather than shout at the crowd, inbound sets you up with a virtual doorstep that speaks meaningfully with the one. Not only is it good for relationship management, it’s good for business. According to the Search Engine Journal, inbound leads cost 60% less than outbound leads. 

In a world of followers, the inbound methodology positions you as a product leader. Create a user experience that does not need to make noise to chase customers; bring your ideal customers to you.

Buyer Personas: Meet Your Target Audience

So what does your ideal customer look like? In order to make sure your marketing efforts are getting through to the right people, anchor your inbound strategy by crafting your buyer personas. 

Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your target customers; their buying habits, their demographic, their challenges and ambitions. Created in the image of those who will be consuming your hyper-focused content going forward; the kind of people who will thank you for it.

Get to know your personas as much as you can, what challenges they face in the current market and what they need from you. In an ever evolving industry, your personas’ needs will evolve with it, so be sure to revisit your personas and optimize them for maximum effectiveness. 

With a lineup of accurate buyer personas, you can tailor your marketing messages to cut through much faster, at every stage in the buyer’s journey.

The Buyer’s Journey: The Inbound A-Z

Whatever your customers’ challenges are, inbound responds with the right answer at the right time, in the right context. In order to do this, we need to understand the customer’s thought process at each step in their Buyer’s Journey, from awareness, to consideration to decision.

The Awareness stage is where your relationship with a new customer begins. They have just come to terms with an issue that needs solving, and they’ve heard you’re the one to solve it. Awareness content needs to share industry insight and guide the customer on the nature of their problem, and how the pros tackle it. To do this, ensure your content is rich with educational content and boosted with quality search engine optimization.

The Consideration stage is where you’ll find prospects who know their problem inside out; now they need to know how to solve it. If your brand is prepared with how-to guides, Q&A’s and accessible technical expertise, you’ll get them closer to a decision.

The Decision stage is where your salespeople will be closing, as long as your customer was suitably impressed in the last two stages. This is where you present your case studies, cost comparisons, demos and free trials, removing all doubt that your product or service is the smart choice.

At every stage, you have the chance to delight your customers with fulfilling, meaningful and positive experiences that will not only answer their questions, but leave a lasting impression. It’s then up to the sales team to turn great engagement into great business. 

"Inbound encourages the practice of making sure your carefully crafted content is hitting the right notes all of the time."

Work Smarter, not Harder: Optimization and Marketing Automation

If your content is working harder, you can work smarter. Inbound encourages the practice of making sure your carefully crafted content is hitting the right notes all of the time. Content optimization and marketing automation are the key differences that make inbound effective for the long term. According to Groove Digital Marketing, 44% of brands see ROI after six months, and 75% after one year. 

A smart content management system enables you to calibrate the user experience, ensuring your customers’ needs are always met along the buyer’s journey. With metrics and analytics, marketeers can report on key demographics who are engaged with your brand and more importantly, which are not. Dial up the right content at the right time and get real time feedback on the effect you’re having on the market. 

Once your optimised content leaves an impression, your automated customer journey does the rest. A successful inbound strategy never leaves a customer in the dark; every piece of content leads to another, with an appropriate call to action that invites them to continue to engage with you. Nurturing your relationship with your demographic in this way is effective in acquiring quality leads who have a stronger chance of being converted to customers. Their seamless experience of your brand sees to it.

Putting your Inbound Marketing Plan Together

Now that you understand the power of choosing what to say and to whom, next you need to think about how to say it. The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as the smart route to increased sales, cost savings and a network of better quality customers who are loyal. 

How do your personas differ in the way they consume content in their everyday lives? If they have read your handy blogs and guides, is it time to communicate with them via email, or would it be more effective to log a call? 

Use all of the tools available to you in the nurturing strategy. Make your long form landing pages downloadable as PDFs for convenience. Record some of your blogs as podcasts for people on the go. Engage with leads via video for a more personal touch. Make every point of contact with your brand, an invitation to share contact information and join your inbound customer workflow which is designed to turn quality leads into sales decisions.

Time to Get Started

Think about your existing customers. At least one of which will be looking at your website or social media channels right at this moment. Are you certain this person is going to be able to find the answer to their question quickly and easily? Do you think they’ll feel encouraged to delve deeper into your content to find out more and if so, is that content there, waiting for them? Are you convinced their interest in your brand will spark a conversation with your sales team?

HubSpot defines the inbound methodology in four words; Attract, Convert, Close and Delight. A smooth workflow of industry-leading content that offers value at every stage, encouraging engagement and nurturing leads into customers with outstanding service. If your business adopts this, you’ll no longer need to shout from the rooftops anymore. You’ll be attracting prospects, converting leads to customers, closing business and delighting your audience, organically and frequently. 

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